One of the things that I have made a priority ever since I started my own transition 20 years ago was to one day be that mentor to the next generation of trans women I wish I’d had at the start of my journey.
I’m still evolving into the person I wish to be, and along the way I have accumulated a lot of knowledge and history I want and need to pass down to the next generation of trans women.
But there are some ground rules.
Rule number one is when you get to be my age, you pass down the knowledge I’m telling you as my mentee to a trans person younger than you someday.
One of the things that royally pissed me off with my predecessors is that elements of them hoarded the knowledge about transition like it was the secret recipe to KFC. Thanks to the Internet, that type of gatekeeping is impossible now, but it was a handicap during my trans formative years in the 70’s and 80’s when I was seeking knowledge on a wide variety of fronts, including about our trans history.
Rule number two is listen. The object of me mentoring you is to pass down knowledge that you respectfully listen to, then do what you will with it to confidently blaze your own trail. If you’re not willing to listen to what I have to say, then it’s a waste of my valuable time. That’s also valuable time I can spend with someone else who is more respectful of my time and my status as a elder stateswoman who paid her movement dues.
Rule number three is critically think. I am human. I don’t walk on water. While I will do my best to make sure any information I pass down to my mentees is accurate, it doesn’t hurt for you to cross check it and make sure it is. It won’t hurt my feelings if you let me know if I’m incorrect about something I told you so I can adjust it.
Rule number four, don’t betray my mentor’s trust in you. I and my fellow trans elders are willing to share our experiences, wisdom and stories because we see something in you as future leaders. We’re hoping that you will use the info we give you to make yourselves better leaders, pass it down to future generations and uplift our entire community as a result.
But don’t stab us and the community in the back
Rule number five, this mentorship is a two way street. There is not only information and history I get to pass down to you, but at the same time your input is valuable to me. It not only keeps me up to date on how things have evolved, it gives me an idea of what the trans landscape was like when you began to transition so I have a baseline frame of reference as to the forces that shaped your thinking. It also helps me properly target my advice for maximum positive effect.
I don’t mind being a mentor. I enjoy it and see it as part of my activist job description. I had the same kind of help from veteran activists when I was a novice, still get it and eagerly seek it out. It’s time for me to pay it forward.
It also keeps my thinking on these issues from becoming stagnant and rigid.
And hopefully me and my trans elders mentoring puts you on the road to becoming the best activist for our people you can be, and makes us better ones.